When it comes to PR the majority of attention is placed on our external communications--we’re judged by the relationships we have with reporters and the efficacy with which we pitch. However, it is what happens before and afterthe press release goes out that can mean the most. The two Rs, research and reporting, are the essential (and time consuming) pillars of our craft. You can forgive PR professionals for not leading with the analytical side of the equation when describing our work (we know how to craft a message after all). But the increasing importance of research and measurement can be seen in the rise of new PR tools that aim to streamline media outreach and reporting. This new technology reveals a lot about the state of our industry.The media list is the bread and butter of PR--closely guarded and carried from job to job. The bane of assistants and coordinators everywhere, it’s amazing that in the 21st century media lists still most often exist in Excel form. Many media list tools exist to get us out of Excel and into the cloud. However, all too often they come up short on complex searches like finding reporters who’ve covered competitors or ones on multiple beats. Newer tools try to use reporter’s social media streams to reveal what’s trending. This can be great way to uncover new targets but filtering off social streams can be hit or miss. Search for “big data” and you might find a reporter who tweeted about the topic--but that doesn’t mean they’re someone who will cover your big data startup’s funding news. As it stands today, there is no magic wand tool that can reduce the amount of research that a successful PR campaign requires. With a media eco-system that is in constant flux, there’s little chance of that changing anytime soon.
While research remains an essential part of a PR's day-to-day, quantifiable measurement is also becoming more and more important. Where once PR was measured in literal press clips, today we sift through and try to comprehend numbers ranging from media value to click through rates. One of the ongoing frustrations in PR is communicating the true value of certain press hits--beyond just pageviews or circulation numbers. We still struggle with how to handle “fuzzy” metrics. Innovators have taken notice. New technology is cropping up that aims to make PR reporting more transparent and measure qualitative results like “sentiment.”
Fueled by the ever-transforming media landscape, PR as an industry is constantly evolving. As thoughtful public relations practitioners, we have to start thinking more critically about the tools we use to make our decisions. From how we build media lists to the way we report results, technology is being developed to make us more efficient and arm us with better intelligence. These new offerings can empower us with better information, but it’s what we do with that information that ultimately counts. It’s still our responsibility to craft the message that will have the most resonance and, (as of this blog post), there’s no app for that.